Jul 27, 2021

Axios Media Trends

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1 big thing: NBC News adding 200+ jobs in streaming, digital

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

NBCU News Group is adding hundreds of jobs to its digital organization, led by a major investment in streaming as well as in its "TODAY" show brand, executives tell Axios.

Why it matters: The move is the network's biggest investment in its streaming and digital products since it said it would hire about 70 people in October 2019.

  • “As more consumption shifts to streaming, it’s only natural that we shift more of our attention and resources to serving that audience," says Noah Oppenheim, president of NBC News.

Details: Beginning this summer, the company will be adding several new hours of original programming to its NBC News NOW streaming service.

  • It also plans to bring more of its star anchors and reporters on board as it expands its streaming programming globally.
  • The network plans to double the digital staff for its "TODAY" franchise, following its expansion into streaming last year.

Some of the new programming coming to NBC News Now:

  • Tom Llamas, NBC's senior national correspondent, will host a new, daily primetime news program.
  • Hallie Jackson, the network's senior Washington correspondent and anchor, will host a daily evening show and a weekly special newsmagazine series.
  • Joshua Johnson, anchor of MSNBC's "The Week," will host a daily evening news analysis and explainer program.
  • All anchors will host these new streaming programs in addition to their linear TV shows.

From a business perspective, the company does not plan to put either NBC News Now or TODAY All Day behind a paywall at this time.

  • “The north star for us is in time spent," says Chris Berend, EVP of Digital for NBCU News Group.

The big picture: Legacy TV news companies are racing to build streaming platforms that will serve the next generation of news consumers.

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2. Exclusive: Ted Lasso's 2nd season is a big hit for Apple TV+

Apple

Season two of Apple's hit comedy "Ted Lasso" debuted as one of the most in-demand TV shows in the U.S. and globally over the weekend, according to data from Parrot Analytics provided exclusively to Axios.

Why it matters: The comedy is Apple's first major hit since introducing Apple TV+ in 2019. Unlike many of the popular series taking off on other streamers, it isn't a super hero show.

Driving the news: As of Saturday, July 24, the series was the second-most in-demand digital original in the U.S., just behind Disney+’s new Marvel series "Loki."

The big picture: Parrot's data shows that Ted Lasso has been a huge driver of Apple TV+’s "demand share" growth in the U.S. and worldwide over the last year.

  • That matters because "demand" for original TV content is often often a leading indicator of subscriber growth.

What's next: Parrot expects Apple's streaming demand market share to continue to rise with the release of new weekly episodes of the show's second season.

Go deeper: How TV Went From David Brent to Ted Lasso from New York Times TV critic James Poniewozik

3. Olympics ratings plummet

Ratings for the Olympics are down generally, but NBC says streaming viewership of the Games is breaking records.

Why it matters: Roughly $1 billion has been spent on advertising around the Olympics. At this point, traditional ratings are still the only real metric marketers can use to justify much of that spend.

By the numbers: Ratings for the Olympic Games opening ceremony were down 36% compared to 2016, according to NBC. 

  • From Friday to Sunday, primetime coverage of the Olympics averaged 15.8 million viewers on across all NBC properties, down from 27.27 million across those three nights in 2016, per THR.

Without fans in the stands, the content may not be as compelling to viewers this year as it has been in the past.

Be smart: A lot of the NBC's success this year will be determined by whether it can get people to subscribe to its streaming service, Peacock.

What to watch: Streaming may be part of the problem. As Bloomberg's Tara Lachapelle notes, the myriad of viewing options and paywalls is likely causing some confusion for consumers.

4. The new faces of the Olympics

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Cy Cyr/PGA Tour via Getty Images

A new(ish) face will be leading NBCUniversal's prime-time coverage of the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games: veteran sportscaster Mike Tirico.

Why it matters: It's Tirico's first run as prime-time host for the Summer Olympics. Legendary broadcaster Bob Costas hosted 12 Olympic Games between 1988 and 2016 for NBC before handing over the prime-time spot to Tirico in 2018.

How it works: Tirico is one of the most versatile sports broadcasters in the world, but in an interview with Axios, he said the Olympics "requires much more knowledge of history and preparation than covering a professional sports event."

  • "The two could not be more opposite and are quite different jobs."

Tirico's role is just one of the changes viewers can expect to see in this year's Summer Olympics coverage.

  • Steve Kornacki, MSNBC's political data guru, is helping Tirico and other hosts analyze data in real time.
  • Rebecca Lowe is serving as NBC’s daytime coverage host. 
  • Tony Hawk, Tara Lipinski, Johnny Weir and others are special correspondents for NBC.
  • Karim Mendiburu and Jessica Carrillo are leading Telemundo’s coverage.

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5. Rise of the Metaverse

Mark Zuckerberg demonstrates an Oculus Rift virtual reality (VR) headset and Oculus Touch controllers in San Jose, California on Oct. 6, 2016. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Facebook is forming a new "Metaverse" product group to advance its efforts to build a 3D social space using virtual and augmented reality tech, Axios Scott Rosenberg writes.

The big picture: In an interview with journalist Casey Newton, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he sees the metaverse — a term widely used in both tech and science fiction to describe broadly shared, open virtual environments — as "the successor to the mobile internet."

  • Zuckerberg also said it was "not something that any one company is going to build."
6. Snopes raises over $1.7 million to fight lawsuits

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Snopes, one of the oldest fact-checking websites in the country, has raised over $1.7 million from over 44,400 supporters to help the company fight a series of lawsuits from a former tech vendor.

Why it matters: It's a massive legal battle for a site that employs 20 people. Snopes founder and CEO David Mikkelson says the legal fees account for roughly 20-30% of Snopes' revenues each year.

  • Proper Media, and its owners, Sovrn Holdings, Inc have been filing civil lawsuits against Snopes since 2017. The main lawsuit is being pursued in Superior Court of California.
  • The legal fight — a complex dispute over ownership of Snopes' parent company, rooted in a fight for control of shares formerly owned by Mikkelson's ex-wife — came to a head in mid-2017, when Snopes says Proper Media blocked its access to its own website and email accounts. A court order gave Snopes access to its site and emails.

By the numbers: Mikkelson says that the site has been hit with over $4 million in lawsuits in four years.

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7. The theater recovery that wasn't
Expand chart
Data: Box Office Mojo; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

A few early summer hits may have provided some much-needed enthusiasm at the box office, but numbers so far show that the theater industry is still struggling.

By the numbers: So far in June and most of July, with more than 80% of all theaters open, ticket sales are still about one-third of what they were on average during those months pre-pandemic.

  • Disney's "Black Widow" and Warner Bros.' "Space Jam" sequel have fallen significantly at the box office since they debuted two weeks ago. Both films were available via streaming simultaneously with theaters.

Be smart: "In my estimation, it's the shaking of consumer confidence (given the pandemic news of late and increasing safety protocols) coupled with the normal ebb and flow of box-office based on the appeal of the films that are presented to the consumer" that's driving the marketplace, says Comscore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian.

7. Journalism's two Americas

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

National journalists covering tech and politics on the coasts reap book deals and booming business, but news organizations continue to shrink, Axios' editor in chief Nicholas Johnston and I write.

  • Why it matters: The resulting haves and have-nots skew what gets covered, elevating big national political stories at the expense of local, community-focused news.

What's happening: Local papers continue to be gobbled up by hedge funds eager to slash jobs for profits. News veterans with more experience are often the first to go.

  • Nationally, venture money continues to pour into new outlets, creating more opportunities for those who cover broad national topics — media, influence, politics, tech.

Between the lines: Such opportunities give national journalists more bargaining power in salary negotiations and more visibility for book deals.

  • "I can't sell local books, only national," says Jane Dystel, a veteran book agent and the president of Dystel, Goderich & Bourret.

A talent drain results from the salary disparity between local and national:

  • The average base pay for a local reporter, according to Glassdoor, is $49,061 annually, compared to $65,437 for national reporters.

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8. Psaki: "Cover scandals in Hollywood" if you're bored by Biden

Snapchat

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki did not mince her words in an interview with Snapchat's Peter Hamby for his show "Good Luck America."

  • "I should say, because you were looking for a scandal or you're looking for a personality driven story, or you're looking for stories about people's love lives. That's not really what we do here," she said.
  • "We're trying to get the pandemic under control. We're trying to put people back to work. I don't find that boring. I work in the government. If you find that boring, I don't know. Maybe you should work for US Magazine and cover scandals in Hollywood.” 

Go deeper: Boring news cycle deals blow to partisan media